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[Page 290 - Yiddish] [Page 78 - Hebrew]

Nothing Has Changed

by Yakov Lochfeld, Haifa

Translated by Moses Milstein

The river snakes placidly and quietly between the fields, and flows to the far–away marshes. Only here, at the concrete bridge, do the waves become more turbulent, frothing between the stones of the Tarnobrod bridge, sounding as if they had something to tell of the nearby shtetl's past…

And much, much does the river have to tell. Just yesterday, the day before yesterday, it happened. Jewish daughters would come here to wash dishes, to rub and polish pots and pans, to scrub the plates and bowls.

Especially after a Shabbos or yom tov, they would come here, the Jewish daughters. A little brother would also come along to help carry the things home. While the sisters were busy with the washing, the boys would hike up their pants, play and splash in the water, run around and wrestle. The work done, the girls would carefully gather up the sparkling clean dishes, place them in a big bowl, and return home with careful steps.

The river gave the town much, very much. Summer, erev Shabbos, young and old would go down to the river some distance away from town. They would dump their clothes on the green lawn, and go for a swim in the calm water. Older Jews who could not swim, used to stand near the shore and dunk themselves, and wash lekoved Shabbos. They would get home in time for kabbalat Shabbat. But the young people were loath to leave the beach. By the time they got home, the sun would already be behind the mountain, the shtetl already enveloped in dusk. The sound of the hammering on Jewish doors would be heard, telling the women that it was time to light the candles.

Throwing off the workweek, ridding themselves of their daily cares, Jews would eagerly go to shul to greet the Sabbath queen whether in the beit hamidrash, the shul, or in the Chasidic shtieblach. It didn't take long before the Friday night prayers carried through all the quiet streets of the shtetl…Later in the evening, Kiddush, and zmiros, could be heard coming from the houses.

Saturday morning, the old, long–time shammes would stand in the middle of town and shout at the top of his voice, “Yidn, in shul arein!” And again they would go to shul…After the Saturday meal, they would go to the forest for a little fresh, pine–scented, air.

 

Kra291.jpg
Vacationers in Moishe-Leib Barg's rooming house

 

Shabbos evening, the women would sit outside on their stoops and discuss female politics…Until, the first star appeared in the sky, and the night lights were lit. A new week had begun.

On Tuesdays, the town got ready for the market. They began to set up the stalls early in the morning. They laid out their merchandise, each in his own way. Jews from nearby shtetls came to do business, to make money. Men went to the first minyan in order not to start late.

In the evening, after the market, debtors would hurry to pay off a loan, fulfill a debt. Others–to borrow money. Then they would prepare for the next market…In this way, with small worries, the days, the weeks, the years, passed.

For the coming generation, the older cheder boys, there was no future here. So they were sent away. Some went to a larger city to learn a trade, others to Lithuania, to the far–off yeshivas. They would come home once a year for a yom–tov. Childhood friends could barely recognize each other…

The shtetl itself also slowly changed its appearance. Electricity was brought to homes. The interior rooms were lit up. The deep mud in the middle of the market was drained, and bricks were laid. But with this, there came a new problem–antisemitism. A great wave of antisemitism flooded the Polish towns and cities, and our Krasnobrod among them. Until greater sorrows arrived, the invasion of Poland by the Nazis.

 

The first days of war

It happened, as we know, in 1939.

The first messengers of death and annihilation arrived in their blue uniforms, in their Panzers, and threw fear into the Jews of the shtetl. People ran into their homes, locked and bolted their houses; mothers clutched their children to their breasts in fear and waited for mercy to come from heaven. After a short time went by with no harm, they began to slowly emerge from their houses onto the street. Small groups got together. They wanted to find out what was happening, to hear some of what others thought. There was a theory that these had been scouts. And they did indeed quickly disappear.

The Jews didn't know what to do, what the situation was. They tried to find out by telephoning to nearby shtetls to find out what the situation was. In the meantime, the retreating Polish army, badly broken, marched into town and readied positions for battle. The steel German birds began to spit fire and devastation. The first Jewish victims fell. It was chaos. The shtetl became the front. People began to flee their homes. Either with packs or just as they were. They fled to the nearby forest to hide in the valleys.

The battle began, and the cannons of both sides echoed terribly in the darkness of night. At every blast, mothers cuddled their children to their breasts, as if to shield them with their bodies.

This went on day and night. Drenched from the rains, frozen by the cold nights, with empty stomachs, they hoped for a change, an end to the troubles…In order to protect themselves from the rain and the bullets, they dug bunkers. At great risk, they stole onto a farmer's field in order to still their hunger with a potato or a turnip. Several days went by, but the situation did not change. On one dark night, a red glow was seen in the region of the shtetl. Someone cried out, “The shtetl is burning!” The next day, we got the news that the whole market square was burned down, the area where mostly Jews lived. Just a few houses on the Tomaszow road remained.

 

Under the Nazi boot

With the occupation of the shtetl by the Germans, the robbing of Jewish property began. German soldiers, along with the Polish antisemites, broke into cellars and took whatever was there. They were living it up. Staying in the forest made no sense anymore. We went back to the shtetl. At the edge of the forest, dead Polish soldiers lay. The air was full of the reek of dead horses. The shtetl was unrecognizable. The Jewish houses with the grey roof shingles were all burned down, turned to coal and ashes. Burned corpses lay here and there. The Germans detained people and ordered them to remove the dead bodies. The Germans amused themselves, lording it over the Jews, cutting off beards and payes, and dragging them about by their tzitzit and tallit–katan.

Homeless, without a roof over their heads, the Jews fell into despair and depression. They crammed themselves into the few remaining Jewish houses. A few days later, we got the news that the Russians had entered the nearby town of Tomaszow. Not much later, the Russians marched into our shtetl. Jews began to breathe a little easier. They went out on the street a little more freely. It was thought that salvation had arrived. But our relief was short–lived. The Russians soon announced that they were retreating. According to the Russian–German agreement, our region was to fall under German rule.

Varying opinions were heard. Some held that it was urgent to leave with the Russians, but others could not bear to leave the place where they were born. No one knew which option was the right one. Some argued that that, in any case, there was nothing to lose by leaving here, with no roof over one's head. The tragic farewells began between children and old mothers and fathers. Families were split up, and went off to wander in far away, foreign places…

For the Jews who stayed behind, a horrible life was beginning. With each passing day, more Jews died. Each morning was greeted with terrible dread. Great was the grief of the mothers who did not know what the fate of their wandering children was. And great, and endless was the pain and terror of the children and relatives of those left behind under the bloody rod of the Germans.

The days were gloomy and grey, and the nights dark with suffering. An eternal darkness enveloped the shtetl of Krasnobrod. The sun with its warm rays darkened the brightness of a clear day. Fear descended on everyone with the coming of night, when a dark fate always picked someone to tear from their home. Sleepless nights began. We were afraid of the slightest sound. A leaf falling from a tree, the wind blowing against the shutters, made our hearts tremble…

The Jews of the city were broken spiritually and physically, their courage and self–worth crushed. Living corpses with yellow patches and Magan–Davids on their arms. And perhaps the Magan–David, the symbol of Jewish bravery, gave them some hope and courage to want to live and fight with all their strength to get through the day, to push through the terrible night. But the terrible nights kept on coming, stretching out to infinity. Long nights of fear, of Jewish tears, of pain wracked groans, of tears from mothers of murdered children, of lamenting from widows over their strangled husbands, of sisters wailing over the death by fire, while still alive, of their brothers, of the heartrending cries of Jewish daughters for their slaughtered mothers. This was how the painful life of the few remaining, still breathing Krasnobroders, dragged on.

The German command created a judenrat in order to suck money out of Jews, and to obtain slaves for all kinds of labor. It was also more convenient for them this way. With the help of the judenrat, they could keep an eye on every Jew. Things went on like this until 1941 when the Nazis invaded Russia. The sufferings of the Jews became even more acute and more tragic. The year 1942 brought the total annihilation of the Jews under the boot of the Nazis. The German murderers drove the remaining Jews out to Izbica where they murdered them along with Jews from the surrounding areas. Many were savagely killed in the shtetl itself and buried in mass graves. Many of them were burned alive. The last few remnants of the Jews disappeared with the smoke.

Only a few managed to escape to the surrounding peasant villages and hide. Some were murdered shortly before Germany's defeat, shortly before liberation, at the bloody hands of the Polish partisans and the peasants with whom they had sought shelter.

The shtetl of Krasnobrod became one entire cemetery. The earth is soaked with Jewish blood and mixed with the ashes of their burned bodies.

 

Nothing has changed

The year is 1950. Eight years after the tragic annihilation I stand and stare at the empty places once filled with Jewish homes, once resounding with Jewish life. The row of wooden houses, all built in the same style, looked like one long house with one long porch.

How long ago was it when, on such a warm summer day, the cheder boys would come out and play. Pushing and laughing, some of the mischievous ones would climb onto a roof and lie down and warm themselves in the warmth of the sun, or run to the river to bathe and practice their swimming.

When winter came, and the mud which had been formed by the harvest rains began to freeze, the river too began to ice over. The young boys went sliding on the still thin ice…

When the snows came, the young kids would take their sleds and go sliding down the slopes of the Krasnobrod mountains. They would try to overtake each other by climbing higher and higher. The sleds flew lightening–fast, from the mountaintops down to the shtetl, across the Zamosc road, and down to, the frozen river. They took care not to slide into the unfamiliar swamps.

The shtetl lay sparkling white as if covered by a sheet. And when the sun appeared from behind the clouds, the roofs shimmered and sparkled as if studded with diamonds…

But no! These are only paper dreams! There are no more Jewish children, no shtetl, no Jewish remnant. Krasnobrod has been transformed into a cemetery, but one without gravestones. A stranger passing through would never think that there had once been Jewish houses here, that this was a place that had pulsated with Jewish life.

The sun began to descend in the west, to the mountains, its last rays shining on the empty places and disappearing…The mountain's shadow spread and covered the site of the vanished shtetl of Krasnobrod in black sorrow.

The autobus from Zamosc arrived. Instead of Jews, only farmers and their wives are to be seen, pushing to get on the bus…

I cast a last look at my erstwhile home, at the forest, at the river. The natural features had not changed. Everything stood as before, as if nothing had happened…Nature hadn't changed. It was just Jewish life that had been extinguished, erased, and expunged.


[Page 299 - Yiddish] [Page 85 - Hebrew]

Episodes in the Life of the Town

by Mordechai Rapoport

Translated by Moses Milstein

I knew the shtetl Krasnobrod from my earliest days. I used to go there on business matters, soon acquired friends there, and in time, I became a resident. With permission, I will relate a few episodes from my time in Krasnobrod.

In 1928 I came to the market which was then near the church, outside town. One evening, while collecting money from the Christian merchants, I noticed 2 young Christians following me with the intent of robbing me. I didn't finish the collection, but jumped into a carriage, and quickly rode into the shtetl. The next day, some Christian merchants I was familiar with told me that my fears were not unwarranted, because they had been looking for me for a while.

* * *

A second encounter with Polish antisemitism occurred at the post office. Once I went to the post office, which was then in the courtyard, to send off a largish amount of money. The bank officer refused to take my money and scattered the coins across the floor. Thanks to my complaint to the head directors, he was dismissed from the post office.

After my marriage in 1931, together with my friends Eli Rind, Bunem Holzberg, Moishe Hoz, Fishl Shlegel, and Israel Babad, we founded a branch of Mizrachi and a minyan in Bintche Rosenfeld's house. We also undertook the establishment of a modern Yavne school. We brought the pedagogue, Kahanovitz, from Jedwabne, and opened the school. Unfortunately, it only existed for a short time. But in its time, it succeeded in planting the religious-nationalist Zionist spirit.

[Page 300]

I shudder when I remember how the shtetl looked after the fire caused by the Hitler murderers. We came from our hiding places in the forest, and did not recognize the shtetl. Ruins everywhere. Burned bodies, and around us the happy mugs of the Polish robbers and looters. Their mocking laughter drove me from the shtetl forever.

Tel Aviv


[Page 301 - Yiddish] [Page 77 - Hebrew]

by Reisha Lehrer

Translated by Moses Milstein

My birthplace, Krasnobrod, was a small, poor, and little known shtetl. It was not distinguished by famous customs, rabbinical personages, or the highly-educated. But whoever got to know it well knew that our Jewish community was blessed with the quality of generosity and readiness to help others. Even though there were few wealthy people, no one who was poor was left helpless when in need.

Engraved into my memory is a specific incident that illustrates clearly the character of our community. In 1936, a Bilgoraj train crashed into a wagon with Jewish passengers and two Jews died.

As soon as this became known in the shtetl, people began to think about the widows and orphans that were created. In the course of 3 days, over 500 Zlotys was collected–a significant sum in those days–and it was used to help out the future of the orphaned families.

This is how it happened everywhere. As soon as a need was detected, it was quickly addressed.

May those who occupied themselves with this work, and lived by the rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” be remembered.


[Page 302 - Yiddish] [Page 63 - Hebrew]

Social Awakening

by Shmuel Gurtler

Translated by Moses Milstein

With the end of the First World War, and the end of Polish-Bolshevik conflict, a social awakening in Jewish life arrived like the morning star after a dark night. A fresh wind blew in and awakened the hidden, dreaming cultural forces of the shtetl.

The youth quickly began to escape from the strictures of dated ideas and customs. With their abundant unused energy, they took upon themselves the burden of becoming the bearers of a new Jewish culture in the narrow dark alleys of the shtetl.

The call from friends Leibke Kupiec, Yossef Lam, Chaim Babad, and Israel Babad to cultural work was received happily, and during the first meeting, it was decided to found a library, and name it after Dr. Ettinger.

The news about the library quickly reached the older generation. The thought that “Satan” had snuck into the Chasidic stronghold of Krasnobrod caused them to mount a war against the apikorsim and kofrim[1]. There were some Jews who knew how to approach the powers that be, and soon the local and regional authorities were “keeping an eye on” those who were not “kosher” enough for the older generation. The notion of founding a library was postponed.

Some time passed and a new cohort of young people arrived. They again raised the idea of cultural activities, the first of which was founding a library. The battle with the older generation renewed itself, and became even more impassioned and stubborn.

Youthful fire, the enthusiasm for new ideas, gave courage to this particular battle and promised success for the young.

[Page 303]

Soon after, a committee was formed that brought a request to the authorities to allow the founding of a library at the Tarbut[2]. They supplied the names of 10 responsible people. In those days, a quarrel had developed regarding rabbis, and 2 opposing sides had formed. When a request came from the authorities for information on the 10, the head of the community, in confusion, did not appreciate the reason, and unwittingly gave a glowing recommendation for the 10. When he did come to realize that it was in reference to the founding of a library, and that he himself, with his own hands, had added fuel to the fire, he pulled out all the stops, and began to make big problems for us. We had been working in secret, but the authorities finally figured things out, and began to carry out investigative searches. Some of the books were with the writer of these lines, and some with Yehoshua Babad. We would have come to a bad end if they had found them on us. Luckily, our friend, Feivel Frimerman was the soltis[3], and he led the police to other Jews with similar names. The police of course found nothing and left without having achieved their purpose.

We decided to transfer the library to Hersh Mazes's warehouse–the brother-in-law of Abraham Barg. We carried on our work there for a long time, until we received official permission from the authorities.

Our joy at the legalization of the library was great. We saw ourselves as victors in the fight against the spiritual ghetto we had been confined to for years. But we soon came up against new difficulties, the first of which was where to house it. No one was willing to rent us a room, recoiling from us as if we were apostates. In the end, we were able to resolve the problem. There was an old commode in Yosef Lam's house, certainly from king Sobieski's time. We used one of the drawers, and the library, with luck,

[Page 304]

was opened. Comical though it may seem, that drawer performed a serious cultural job. People came there to exchange books, read newspapers that we acquired, and every Saturday, there was a reading by Hersh Leibl Briks.

 

Kra304.jpg
A group of youths

Standing, first row above from R to L: Velvl Gurtler, Itke Alboim, Sholem Shlegel, Grune Gurtler, Shloime Babad, Malke Shlegel
Second row: Seated, Blume Tentzer, Freise Eisen, Freidl Knabel, Neshe Leon

 

Later, we acquired a room, and we were able to show what we were capable of. A drama club was formed that put on several one-act plays like Shimshon Hagibor, Der Meshugener in Shpitul, etc. The pious folks could not reconcile themselves to our activities, and they created great problems for us whenever they were able. Once the Rosh HaKahal,

[Page 305]

in the presence of our members, referred to us in insulting words. We therefore took him to court. Seeing that his position was precarious, he called as witnesses, the parents of our members. Thus a series of trials and quarrels in the home began. In the end, we won the trial, and silenced our opponents as a result. Interestingly, the Rosh HaKahal later became our friend, and the literary trial of Uriel Acosta took place in the big hall of his tavern.

The trial drew many people from the surrounding cities and shtetls who were vacationing among us in the countryside. We conducted the trial at a high level, and took advantage of the intellectual abilities of the vacationers. During vacation season, we used to carry out a strong cultural and educational program. Naturally, there were people of many different political parties among the intellectuals taking part who affected us politically. Political parties of every direction, with no exceptions, were founded.

Nevertheless, our interactions were the friendliest. The most painful discussions never disturbed our relationships nor caused animosity. Truly Meshiach's time.

Part of the youth of that group made aliyah to Eretz Israel. Some immigrated to various countries overseas. Others abandoned the “foolishness” and were drawn into the hard battle to earn a living. A younger generation grew up and took their place, and injected fresh blood into our collective life.

This is how it continued until the arrival of the storm that tore out the deeply rooted Jewish community and destroyed it forever, and destroyed as well the fruitful, creative people who were the youth of Krasnobrod.

Haifa


Translator's notes

  1. Free thinkers and heretics return
  2. A network of Hebrew secular schools return
  3. Village magistrate return


[Page 306]

Letters in my Drawer

by Gitl Barg, Tel Aviv

Translated by Moses Milstein

I stand by the open drawer of letters, as if by a grave. Letters–the accumulation of years–lie here. Every letter someone's soul, someone's life, an open wound. My sister, Bluma, writes me, “Dear Gitl, 26 months of Hachshara are not enough to make aliyah to Eretz Israel. I am waiting for your help.” Pain, tear out my heart! Woe is me, I did not help her at all, I could not help! The letters lie here, and speak to me, demand, punish, and caress. They speak of what once was, and will never be again.

As if he were before me now, I can see my dear father, I can hear his voice saying, “Children, you must be good, love others as you love yourself, give tzedakah, and accumulate massim tovim.” And he himself behaved the way he taught us to.

And here is my dear, good–hearted mother. She is happy that I finally achieved my goal, and am making aliyah to Israel. But she is very worried about my trip, and can't stop crying and sighing. Every sigh of hers, tears out a piece of my heart, steals from me a little bit of the joy of aliyah.

My sisters and brothers, and their children, do not leave me for a second. Every one brings me something; everyone gives me a gift as a memento. I still have many of the things given to me, a memento of my loved ones, though they themselves are no longer here. How terribly hard it is to comprehend that, from all of them, no one remains, that I will never see them again, never hear their voices again, never feel again the closeness and love.

I see you now, my dear friends, girls and boys, relatives and friends, as you all come to see me off. Our house is overflowing with people. My sister, Etl's, house is also crowded, and my dear friends fill the street. I hear Hersh Leibel Briks, and Yehoshua Shnur worriedly wondering, “Let's hope the sea is calm in such terrible weather.”

My heart breaks when I am reminded of all this, the moment when I left them all. I remember how my beloved mother pressed me to her heart, “My child, you must go. Your beloved husband is there, your home is there.” But I can't tear myself away from her. Every step takes me further from her, and I don't have the strength to go on. “God knows if I will ever see her again” is screaming in me. I can feel her last kiss. I never saw her again.

* * *

Krasnobrod, where I spent my childhood, the most beautiful years of my youth.

How beloved and dear is the name of my shtetl to me.

Krasnobrod. How horrible your name is to me, the shtetl of our doom, the place of our eternal, unrelieved sorrow…

* * *

I want to add here what I have learned about the death of my sister, Tzetl, and her family.

My sister, Tzetl, lived outside of the shtetl. That was why her little house did not get burned. That was the sad reason that she did not, like many others, leave the shtetl. My brother–in–law, Velvl, and two children went to Majdan where his parents had lived for years. Brocheh, their older daughter, and her husband and small child, were wandering around in the forest, in tatters and barefoot until they could take it no longer. Dying of hunger, they left to seek a piece of bread. The farmers killed her husband first, and then her.

Chanaleh, the second daughter, a very pretty girl, was found murdered in the forest. Tzetl escaped from the Izbic ghetto, then escaped from Beljec to Krasnobrod. She searched for a sign of any of her children. A few days before liberation, she was murdered by the goyim. Velvl learned that the children who had been with him had been murdered. One of his boys, it was reported, was thrown into a deep well. Overcome by grief and despair, Velvl committed suicide.

That is the horrible and cruel end of my sister's family. May the holy, innocent, blood that was shed, never be forgotten, and may it demand revenge from the German murderers and their Polish helpers.


[Page 309 - Yiddish] [Page 100 - Hebrew]

The Lord's Candle–A human soul

by Rav R'Chaim Shaul Ya'ave”tz

Translated by Moses Milstein

Even though I was not born in Krasnobrod, I happened to have spent a certain part of my life there, and I would like to describe some of the people I knew there.

I arrived in Krasnobrod in 1902, and there I found my friend and life companion, the estimable Jewish woman, Taube bat R'Yakov Ozer Kupiec, z”l. I also became good friends with harav hagaon R'Nachum Feignboim, zts”l, whose door was open to everyone.

I developed an intimate friendship with R'Shmuel Leib (Zeltzer), shochet, z”l. He was one of the first chasidim, a scholar, and a big specialist in his work. Often when he encountered a difficult sugye[1] in the Talmud or tosafot,[2] I used to–as much as I was able–help him out with a peyresh[3]. And like someone who rejoices in a great victory, so he rejoiced over each new peyresh that I brought him.

So also was his son-in-law, R' Abraham Meir Shostchak, z”l, who observed all the laws faithfully.

I would also like to mention R' Shmuel Ozer and his son Mechl. R'Shmuel Ozer was a good-hearted Jew. Even though he lived in great poverty, he was always happy and received with joy both the good and the bad. A week before I left Krasnobrod, he asked me for a loan. I took out 25 Zlotys and gave them to him. He declined to take such an amount and only took 5 Zlotys.

And they, all the warm hearted, true Jews, students and scholars, were tortured with the most horrid suffering, to the death, by the enemy, may his name be erased, who had undertaken to annihilate the entire Jewish people.

I, who loved them with every fiber of my being, reawaken my memories of them in my mind, and may these few lines, written by one who sees himself as a brother in the family of Krasnobrod survivors, serve as a light to the memory of their holy souls.

New York


Translator's notes

  1. Talmudic question under study return
  2. Annotations to the Talmud return
  3. Commentary return


[Hebrew page 101]

Memorial prayer

by Shlomo Zonshtein (New York)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

For the ascension of the pure souls of the Krasnobrod martyrs.

May this memorial page, which I am writing here, be a spark in the eternal flame (Ner HaTamid), which will be in our hearts forever in the memory of the great mass grave of this holy community, which was cut down from the land of life, by an impure, vile and accursed nation until the end of all generations.

And may these letters in the memorial book be illuminated by the glow of the sky and shed bright light on the holy community that sacrificed their lives for the sanctification of the name of Israel among the Gentiles.

And when our children and our children's children see what is written in it, they will also know and will tell those who come after them about the heavy price paid by the exile generation. Let them see and know that they must protect their people's freedom and independence in this good land. And it will fill their hearts with strength and power, valor and courage of spirit, to fight for their freedom and to sacrifice their lives for it. And let this be a consolation for a life that was cut off, for a community that passed away, like a herd of sheep surrounded by coyotes. For a community that was mercilessly destroyed while no one did or said anything.

Krasnobrod was the first city that was burned down, and its people were the first victims who sacrificed their lives in the great conflagration that enveloped cities and countries, peoples and countries. These were also the first steps of the Nazis murderers on Polish soil.

As fate would have it, I was a witness to how the Krasnobrod community was burned and went up in flames. My eyes saw its first victims, whose bodies were found charred in the burning remains of the ruined houses.

Among these first victims I will mention a father and son, Shmuel Ozer Kupiec and his son Michael. Their faces were so mutilated that it was impossible to recognize them. We recognized the father by the small tallit that the flames, miraculously, did not corrupt, and this was a kind of symbol from Divine Providence, that only the body can be burned, but the spirit will remain forever. And no flame will be able to destroy the holy flame burning in the hearts of the people of Israel.

Among the ruins more charred bodies were found, but it was impossible to recognize them because they were the bodies of refugees whom no one in the town knew.

[Hebrew page 102]

On the same day of the fire, the Nazis also shot: Leibish Kramer, Shmuel (Shmilke) Shatmer, and the mentally ill Reuven. This was only the beginning - the beginning of the bitter end that befell our town, and then continued to a third of the Jewish people in the Diaspora. This was the beginning of the storm that dried up the spring of a living and deeply rooted Judaism, that was blessed with prosperity, and strength and wealthy in material and spiritual assets.

And just as the Jews of Krasnobrod were the first to be sacrificed, they were also among the last of the oppressor's victims. The latter did not die among the ruins of their homes, but in the land of Ukraine to which they fled, and where they hoped to be saved.

The murderers used to murder their victims in an orderly and cold manner. First, people without a profession were murdered. Then professionals would be murdered after exploiting their work and their professional skills. The survivors between one slaughter and the next, tried again to escape from the German-occupied land to the Romanian border, to “Transnistria”. There, too, Jews were already living in ghettos and camps surrounded by barbed wire, but no one had yet heard of mass slaughters, as the Germans had perpetrated here. And so, the refugees risked their lives and stole away to the city of Zhmerynka and the city of Braila.

Until one day, Romanian soldiers surrounded the ghetto in Braila, and its surprised Jews, and led them all together to the slaughter place on the main road between Zhmerynka and Braila.

In this crowd that was led to slaughter were also a mother with her two daughters from Krasnobrod. The mother was Mira Kupiec and her daughters Hana and Bina. Their brother Avraham also walked with them. Hana kept her dignity until the last moment and did not agree to take off her clothes, as instructed by the murderers. She “won” and was murdered with her clothes on, and no one saw her nakedness while she was alive.

The disgrace they wanted to put on this holy Kosher daughter of Israel will stick to the murderers and their descendants until the last of them dies, and they will be an example to others forever.

And the glory of the names of the martyrs of Krasnobrod will live forever among the martyrs and the pure.

[Hebrew page 103]

A report about the first memorial assembly held for the martyrs of Krasnobrod
that took place at Netzach Israel synagogue in Haifa on 15 Cheshvan 5710, 6.11.49

The memorial assembly was opened by the member Ephraim Lochfeld. He began by requesting we honor the memory of the martyrs with two minutes of silence. Afterwards, the member Lochfeld was elected as the chairman of the assembly, and the member Mordechai Rapaport was elected as secretary.

Permission to speak was given to the first of the eulogists, the member Moshe Fishl. He described the hardships that the Krasnobrod community endured under the hard rule of the Nazis. He described the action (the roundup of the Jews before sending them to the camps) as an eye witness to them. The first was during Shavuot in 5702, 1942. During the aktion, “judenrat” people and others were killed for not wanting to cooperate and betray their friends. Many were transferred to Belzec. The second aktion was in the month of Av 5702 (1942), when the Nazis set fire to houses with their occupants and about fifty people were burned to death.

The actions of the Nazis not only affected the living, but also the dead. The tombstones in the cemetery were removed and used to pave a road. The graves were plowed and sown. No sign remained of Krasnobrod and its dead.

After him, the member Aharon Untzig came up and taught the audience a chapter of Mishnoyat. He explained the value of studying for the ascent of the souls of the martyrs, in particular those who were not buried in a Jewish ceremony. He ended the “class” by saying Kaddish.

After that, Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Gortler eulogized the martyrs. He based his eulogy on the verse from parashat Vayeshalach (Genesis 37), in which the sons of Yaakov said to their father: “They will not treat our sister as a prostitute”, and the meaning is that the sons of Yaakov did not want to forsake their sister and demanded revenge for insulting her honor. And if we want to revenge the insult to the honor of our martyrs, we can only do so in our own free country. And again, he brought proof from the verse in Genesis 35, in which God said to Yaakov, “Get up, go to Bet El, and do not dwell in Nablus.” Nablus was not considered an Israeli city at that time. The proof is from this, is that all the people of Israel, the sons of our father, Yaakov, must immigrate to Israel and live in the land and build it. And if we all live in the land and engage in its building, then we can avenge the insult to our nation and its martyrs.

The member Yoel Handelsman read scriptures in rhymes in the memory of the martyrs.

[Hebrew page 104]

Finally, the member Ephraim Lochfeld gave details and memories from the town. He talked about the martyrs and pure ones who sacrificed their lives to help the people from their nation. Those were: Yosef Goldstein and Fishl Shlegl, who were killed by the Nazis in the first aktion. He proposed that memorial assemblies be held every year on the day of the last aktion, which was the 15th day of the month of Cheshvan. His proposal was accepted unanimously.

We ended the mourning assembly with the prayer “God full of mercy” by the member Eliezer Lerner.

After the end of the mourning assembly, the assembled approached the practical part of the meeting. In this part, Mr. Lochfeld proposed the establishment of a committee. The following candidates were proposed:

1. Ephraim Lochfeld Haifa 9. Avraham Borg Tel Aviv
2. Shalom Zeltzer Haifa 10. Yehoshua Shlegl Tel Aviv
3. Eliyahu Rind Haifa 11. Avraham Glickman Tel Aviv
4. Pinchas Kupiec Haifa 12. Shmuel Untzig Tel Aviv
5. Shmuelke Gortler Haifa 13. Avraham Elboim Jerusalem
6. Shlomo Babad Haifa 14. Mordechai Rapaport Ramla
7. Moshe Fishl Haifa 15. Moshe Fuchs Hadera
8. Avraham Giter Haifa  

After the candidates were approved, Mr. Lochfeld proposed establishing a charity fund, which would be a continuation of the charity fund that existed in the city of Krasnobrod. The purpose of the fund was to extend help to every needy member of the town of Krasnobrod who lived in Israel. He suggested that those gathered in the assembly make donations immediately, and with such donations the charity fund would be practically established. The proposal was accepted by unanimous consent, and everyone immediately contributed as much as they could.

With warm words and a call for unity, and maintaining a close relationship between the remnants of the people of Krasnobrod, Mr. Lochfeld closed the assembly.


[Page 311]

In the light of memory

by Esther Kam-Glickman, Holon

Translated by Moses Milstein

When we look back at the far away days of our youth, memories and impressions are awakened, and we feel an urge to tell, and tell, as much as we are capable of describing in words.

Of course the thousands of people who survived the Second World War, with all its hardships and terrors under Hitler's government, have much to tell and write about. But even for those who were far from their homes in that time, the shtetl, where they took their first steps on God's earth, is burned into their hearts…

I was a child like all the children in Krasnobrod. My parents—pious people—sent their children to cheder, determined that they would grow up with respect for all.

In those days, the Zionist movement was beginning, and Krasnobrod was hungry for every word about Zionism that reached it. Zionism mostly enthralled the young. Older people were against it. There were often quarrels between parents and their children. The parents tried to prevent their children from being swept along with the new ways. Great tragedies were played out in homes when a youngster went off to hachshara or aliyah to Eretz Israel.

I was also one of those who rebelled against my parents. My parents cried and argued, “Your Zionism has caused us shame and mockery, how can you do this? God will inflict sorrow on the whole house.” Not a few of us old chalutzim remember this.

I remember that fateful day when I left the place of my birth, my home, left my father and mother, sisters, brothers, and friends, forever, and went to Eretz Israel. It was a sad moment, but I was determined and confident. I was full of hope that one wonderful day, I would be reunited with my loved ones. The letters I later got from my parents gave me courage and faith, roused me to be true to my people in my new land.

* * *

The year 1939 arrived. The war broke out. Letters from home no longer come. The only source of information is the press or radio.

We could feel a great tragedy developing. After work, our free time is spent by the radio. The Nazi army advances deeper and deeper into Poland. They take city after city. Story after story strikes us like thunder, and worries our hearts.

Day and night I would wonder: Where are my parents? Who knows what painful roads they now have to wander along? Do they have a place to rest their weary feet, something warm to keep them going? They were always in my thoughts, and at night, I would dream of them. Here—I see my father. He is begging me to send food to them, to Poland…They have nothing to eat…And I imagine I am speaking to my sister. She is mad at me for not bringing her over to me to Eretz Israel in time…In the morning I would wake from the nightmares tired and broken, unable to carry out my job. My eyes were never dry, always full of tears that it seemed would never end.

Yes, we who were far from the Nazi hell, also suffered during those sad times.

* * *

What I feared came to pass: “Now, you are alone in the world. There will be no more letters, no comforting words from your mother, or your sister. All your hopes are gone, and the little bit of naches that parents used to have from their children, and their children allotted to their parents has gone.” And now it has all happened!...A heart feels, a heart cannot be fooled, it seems.

The Nazis plundered, murdered, burned. They tore children away from their parents, husbands from wives, and exterminated them all, and left eternal grief in our broken hearts.

How can you describe what you feel in words, and how can you forget the beloved shtetl, Krasnobrod, with her beautiful landscapes around her, the large, beautiful forests, where I spent part of my youth. We grew up together with our friends surrounded by the beauty of nature. We would spend entire days there in the summer, running around, singing, dancing…We would return home tired in the evening. What a warm home we had…

I will forever remember you, my Krasnobrod, with your small houses, and narrow lanes! I will forever carry in memory my beloved parents, my sisters and brothers, who were martyred. I will never forget you.


[Page 314 - Yiddish] [Page 86 - Hebrew]

The Town

by A. Diamant

Translated by Moses Milstein

It is not easy for me to write about memories of Krasnobrod. How can one “describe” a shtetl that had over 500 years of Jewish tradition? Harder still is to decide what and about whom to write. Is it possible to choose to write about one thing and not about another? Can one write about a shtetl of 400 Jewish families each of whom has its own history and traditions? Where every person had his own joys and sorrows, his own pleasures and worries. Where every tree could tell of generations of a pulsating Jewish life. And how much could the mountains and forests that surrounded the forest tell? How much could the river Wieprz tell abut the conversations between the mothers and grandmothers when they would come to wash clothes in its waters.

Unfortunately, we have only our memories to do so. Not possessing any other documents or materials, we are forced to search our memories in order to bring out the facts and events that will describe the life, and the destruction of the Jewish community in our shtetl.

There are various versions regarding the founding of Krasnobrod. One of them, which has some indication of authenticity, explains: In the fourteenth century, the Jews of Ukraine and Podolia suffered terribly as a result of the conflict between the Poles and the Ukrainians. A group of Jewish families came from Galicia and settled in Krasnobrod. The name Krasnobrod comes from 2 different words- krasni brod which means red dirt or dirty from redness, and red well. The name was given after big battles that took place in that area, and the ground was simply red from blood.

[Page 315]

Incidentally, I was in Brod, Galicia, which also has the name Krasni, during the war. There is a place there where hundreds of years ago great battles took place.

In the shtetl there were also tombstones over 400 years old. But the founding of the community actually took place much earlier.

WWI did not pass Krasnobrod by. It was burned down during the battles, plundered by the armies, Petlura's bands, and sometimes also by the Polish neighbors in the surrounding villages. They had to rebuild anew. Much effort and work was required until it was rebuilt and new life began to pulsate. Some of it was done with help from outside. Signs of an economic recovery based on business, trades, pedlaring–dorfsgeyer[1], among the Jewish population, began to be seen

 

Jewish Commerce

Ninety percent of business activity consisted of merchants who brought various kinds of merchandise from the big cities, and sold them to the Jewish and Polish population. The lumber business was a significant branch. Jews would buy up lumber from the nearby forests and send it off to Danzig and other places. With time, the lumber business developed greatly and a wood products industry also came into being–sawmills, furniture factories, etc. A lot of Jewish families earned their living by it, and some of them became very rich. The grain business also played a prominent role in the shtetl economy. They used to buy grains–wheat, corn, oats, barley–grind them into flour and sell it to other parts of the country.

[Page 316]

Trade in animals, cattle for slaughter, and horses was carried out by 2 or 3 families who passed it down from generation to generation. The cattle business was found in the hands of the “Zeinvelach”, so called because one of the grandfathers was called Zeinvl. Almost all the sons, sons-in-law and their children took part in this business. Another person who was involved with the animal trade was Nachman Stockhammer who lived near the shul.

 

Kra316.jpg
The Stockhammer family, Hy”D

 

He was a modest, and God-fearing person. He was never heard to speak harshly, and he lived peacefully with everyone. His house was always open to the boys from the besmedresh who came there to warm up. His wife, Beile-Bashe, also distinguished herself by her hospitality to guests. She never let a guest leave her house without having something to eat. It is my honor to memorialize, at least with these words, the memory of this woman, Beile-Bashe, who helped my

[Page 317]

mother in raising me, and whose house was a second home for me.

The horse business was in the hands of several families originating from the Lefler family.

In contrast to other shtetls in our neighborhood, where the animal handlers were mainly from the lower classes, the “Zeivelach”, and the “Leflers” were faithful, pious Jews and well regarded business people. They willingly gave charity, gave their children a Jewish upbringing, and were well-liked in the shtetl. One of the Leflers, R' Itche Lefler, a man with a handsome beard, knew entire psalms off by heart. Every Shabbes, he would recite psalms before the davening began. He did not miss one day of davening. When I used to get up at dawn, and go to the besmedresh to study, he would always already be there, reciting psalms. He was usually accompanied by his brother-in-law, Abraham Abis, also a horse dealer. He had another quality as well. Whenever a rabbi came to visit the town, he would have to stay at his house.

There were of course a few other families in the animal business, but the above mentioned families were the pioneers, and dominated the trade. It was the same thing with the butchers where 2 families, almost in a patriarchal way, were occupied with the meat business. One of them, the Tentser family, was a large family of observant Jews who guarded kashrut, and gave large donations. The second family were the Greenboim brothers, also a large family where almost all of them took part in the same business.

As much as I am able to remember, I will list the merchants of Krasnobrod by their line of business.

Lumber: Shmuel Gurtler, Pesach Helfman, Abraham Yakov Freund,

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Shloime Glomb, Lam-Levenfus families, Shulem Zeltser, Yosel Holz, and others. The first four were partners, and carried on a big businesses. But in the end, they were not successful and went on to other businesses; Gurtler to wheat, Helfman to a restaurant, Freund to textiles, and Glomb to leather.

Textiles: Practically the first family in this branch was the family of Shloime Bergstein, or as he was called, Shloime-Gitl's. The family grew to be large, and all were concerned with this business. There were other textile stores like Shloime Kupiec–Shloime Menashe's–Binem Holcberg, Gerzon, etc. On the eve of the war, my father, may he live long, also took part in this business.

Leather: Moishe Yosl Goldberg

Iron: Pinchas Glater, who later immigrated to Eretz Israel, and gave his shop to his son Yehoshua, Leibish Gitl's, and Dovid Alboim.

Food and grocery: Nathan Lifsh, Berl Steinberg, Ozer Gortenkroit, Mordechai Gurtler, my father, and many others.

Handwork: In order to describe the Krasnobrod handworkers, one needs to be a very talented writer. It occupied a substantial and colorful stratum of the ordinary folk, hard working and filled with wisdom and folksy humor. Simple, pious people who, three times a day, tore themselves away from their workbenches and ran to the besmedresh so that, God forbid, they shouldn't miss Shacheris, Minche, and Maariv. They always remembered to recite a bit of psalms, and give their last penny for charity. They vied for synagogue service and sent their kids to the best teachers, turned them into “mentchen,” who then left the shtetl, and went overseas to a better fate.

Shoemaker: Here too the trade was concentrated in

[Page 319]

the hands of a few families like: the Shtemers (the “Leifelakes”). These were all brothers, in-laws, and cousins. Almost all were slightly built with big beards; they each took after the other. Naturally, in time, the trade expanded and very many families drew their living from shoemaking and cobblering. Some of them later immigrated to South America, became rich and naturally forgot their shtetl and their acquaintances. I must mention certain shoemaker families like Yoine Alboim, Abraham Shnur, and Shiye Fuchs.

Tailors: The preeminent family in this field was the Weissfish family, or as they were called, “Sralkelech,” because their father and grandfather were called Israel Shneider. The family was composed of several of his sons and grandsons who were all occupied with tailoring. The grandchildren traveled away to big cities like Warsaw and Lodz, where they learned the latest styles and brought them back and made careers of it. Their parents had it easy previously sewing pants and the long kapotes. When the young people stopped wearing the long kapotes and began to demand modern clothing, the tailors had to acquire more knowledge and they went off to the big cities to learn the new styles.

Bakers: Several well-known families were engaged in this trade. They made good money, ran wealthy homes, and built nice bakeries and very nice houses. They gave their daughters nice dowries and made good matches. Families in the baking trade were: Fuchs or the “Mendelech,” Rind, Rendler, Alboim, the “Chemtchicheh,” Ben Zion Kam, and others.

There were other trades engaged in by Krasnobrod Jews like, for example, tinsmiths, carpenters, house painters, hat makers, watchmakers, barbers, locksmiths, but these were all just a few individuals.

[Page 320]

Carriage drivers: Since the shtetl had no railroad connections, or a highway, the only connection to the outside world was with horse and wagon. Several families drew their living from it: Shimon Balagoleh, Itchele Yosl's, Baruch Yakov Ulman, Nachman Gree, and others. They made the most money during the summer months, when hundreds of people came from the surrounding region for rest and recuperation in the Krasnobrod pine forests and sandy soil.

Peddler–dorfsgayer

Some tens of families were employed as peddlers to the villages. Like the other occupations, it was transmitted through the generations. There were 3 kinds of village peddlers: a) rich dealers who loaded up horse and wagon with merchandise they bought in the villages, stored it, and later sold it in large quantities b) poor dealers who in the space of a few days bought things from the peasants and sold them immediately in the city. The third kind of peddlers were the poor who had no means of making a living in the city. They would go out to the villages, and in various ways, earned some money.

Summary: These were the main types of business on which the economy of the Jewish population in the shtetl was based. The economic crisis of the thirties affected the Jews of Krasnobrod severely. Some became impoverished, and others had to work really hard to make a living. This led to the emigration of many families overseas. The youth dispersed to the big Polish cities to look for work.

In 1933-34, there were signs of improvement in the economy.

[Page 321]

But along with this, waves of antisemitism and boycotting of Jewish businesses arose. Polish businesses opened in competition, which with the help of wild unruly, pickets, began to break up and ruin the Jewish economy, and set the Jewish population along the road to hunger and need.

 

Fanaticism

At the same time, with the geographical separation from the outside world, the shtetl was also isolated from the social and political life of Polish Jewry.

The cultural life of Jewish men consisted of praying three times a day, and reciting a few psalms. Whoever was capable, studied Gemara with Tosafot and Mishanyot. Naturally, as the scholars had hegemony over Jewish life, the gabaim use to use all their wiles–not always honest ones–to maintain their dominance in the shtetl. There were individuals who would read a newspaper or a book from time to time, but that was done behind closed doors so that no one, God forbid, should find out.

The cultural life of women consisted of giving men the opportunity to study by helping them in earning a living, giving birth to and raising children. The Tsene Renne[2] was the main source from which our mothers and grandmothers drew their wisdom and culture. In the years following WWI, novels began to appear with tales of miracles performed by sages and pious Jews. But this too was only for certain individuals. The majority of women did not know how to read.

The Chasidim had a big influence in the shtetl. They used to travel to their rebbe several times a year, and sometimes the rebbe would visit the shtetl. Those days were like holidays for his followers.

[Page 322]

There were Chasidim from 4 rabbinical dynasties in town: Belzer, Trisker, Radziner, and Gerer. The relationships between the Chasidim were far from ideal. Quarrels and schisms were frequent occurrences. Separate prayer houses, separate shochets. When it came time to appoint a rabbi or a shochet, the debates and quarrels took up most of the public's time and resulted in creating enmity between people.

 

Awakening

The First World War shook up the shtetl and awakened it from its dreams, threw down the walls of fanaticism, and the breath of a growing Jewish cultural life blew in.

The thirst for knowledge about what was happening on the battlefields led to people beginning to read newspapers. Many refugees, who had returned to the shtetl after the war, brought news about Jewish life in other cities. Slowly, the desire for another way of life, began to be felt, and with it the desire to learn to read and write Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew. Some teachers adapted to the new requests and began to teach secular subjects. Some of the young, especially the girls, left to attend at the government elementary school.

The first library of Jewish books was created thereby laying the foundation for a new communal life that, in time, included all the Jewish youth.

The older generation did not stay indifferent. They dug in and began to fight with all the means at their disposal against the “plague” that had stolen into the shtetl. Quiet but serious fights went on between children and parents who would burn the books their kids brought into the house.

[Page 323]

The results of the battles were quite sad for the older generation. The youth became more motivated and did not give up, and responded with increased cultural activities. The times were full of dramatic tension. The struggle between generations is not an easy one and it demanded its sacrifices. The library became a symbol of their struggle. It developed the required strength needed for the interruption and the reconstruction of Jewish social life.

The social and cultural awakening led consequently to the development of a political consciousness among the masses. Political parties and their youth movements appeared.

 

The Parties

Unfortunately, we do not know the dates when the parties formed in our shtetl.

Mizrachi: The first to begin party organization activities were the Mizrachi members. They were youngsters who represented the religious way of life, and at the same time, Zionist work. They did work for Keren Kayemet L'Israel, and Keren Hayesod. They organized various Zionist events, and brought in speakers from larger cities. On the other hand, they did not interest themselves in culture-work, and did not organize any cultural events. They also tried to found a Yavneh school which lasted barely one year. The reason was, in my opinion, due to the failures of dedicated and capable members.

Poale Zion: The second party to get organized was Poale Zion. Thanks to the dedication and capabilities of its strongly idealistic members, in a short time, it expanded in quality and quantity. In time, they

[Page 324]

became the trend-setters of cultural life in the shtetl. They carried out successful theater presentations, and cultural events. Their youth organization, Freiheit, and the “Skoit,” also developed an extensive educational program.

 

Kra324.jpg
A convention of Hanoar Hazioni in Krasnobrod

 

General Zionists: The third party organized were the General Zionists of both directions (Al Hamishmar and Et Livnot). In actuality, they had begun organizing a general Zionist organization before any of the other parties, but it was interrupted by the death of Yakov Zimmerman. As one of the founders and organizers of the party, I remember well the colossal difficulties and interferences that we encountered in our activities. The interferences came from both the parents and the opposing parties. Thanks to the fact that the organization attracted a group of dedicated and aware ideologues,

[Page 325]

we were able to establish it on a solid foundation. We later had a big influence on the Zionist life of the shtetl. We also had a youth organization, Hashomer Haleumi, which later

 

Kra325.jpg
A group of girl members of Hanoar Hazioni

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was called Hanoar Hazioni. It was in large measure due to the work of Mendl Farber who devoted much work and time to the General Zionist movement.

Bund: When the Bund was founded it had very few members. But it soon grew into a large and strong organization. Firstly, it was due to the fact that they had talented and politically conscious members like Yehoshua Shnur, and others. Secondly, the Communists, who had no legal organization, sent some of their members to the Bund in order to have a legal avenue for contributing to the debate. In the last years before the war, the Bund had shrunk considerably, and was barely heard of.

Communists: Right after the war, many young people, under the influence of the Russian revolution, joined the ranks of the Communist movement. Many were arrested, and one of them, Shmuel Weissfish, was murdered in jail. Others received heavy sentences. Some fled to Soviet Russia. And so, they fell apart. They never succeeded in accomplishing any organizational activities. Some of those who fled to Russia came back to Poland with the stream of repatriations after the Second World war.

Revisionists: The Revisionists had very few members and were not strong enough to mount their own party organization. They lacked the necessary organizers.

In the deepest sorrow and pain, I remember all these dear people, the simple, faithful Jews of the older generation, and the dear idealistic youth, their activists and educators.

Sorrow consumes the heart and there is no consolation.

Chaval al de'avdin velo mishtakchin![3]


Translator's notes

  1. Someone who carried on business visiting villages return
  2. Women's bible and other writings in Yiddish return
  3. Woe unto us, for he cannot be replaced. return


[Hebrew page 97]

The destruction of the Krasnobrod Congregation

by Nathaniel Brenner (Jaffa)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

There is no doubt that the impression of an adult from the sights he sees is deep. But no less deep is the impression of a little child from a sight that shocks him to the core of his childish soul, such as the sight of destruction, killing and devastation. The sight of the destruction of Krasnobrod was engraved on my heart and will never fade.

On the day the Second World War broke out, I was about 8 years old. I was with my parents, and my two brothers, and my sister in a village near Tarnogrod, where we stayed during the summer vacation period, and also because my father had some business in that area.

With the end of the summer vacation, we were about to return to Krasnobrod. My father preceded us and went to Bilgoraj. All of us, my mother and the children, got on the farmer's wagon and set off. We drove the whole night on a road that curved between meadows and stubble fields, in a quiet and calm landscape. Nothing disturbed the peaceful night, except for the barking of a dog, or the mooing of a cow. We were rocked by the wagon and dozed off. No one imagined the storm that would break out here in a little while. We arrived in Jozefow and continued towards Krasnobrod, and in the morning we arrived at its outskirts. We passed by the old cemetery and the pension of the late Moshe Borg. We entered the heart of the city, and there we noticed groups of Jews standing and arguing with great enthusiasm and interest, and a very worried look on their faces.

Such a sight in a quiet town like ours, and at this early hour, did not bode well. And indeed, when we arrived at the house of grandfather Rabbi Aharon in Babad, my good and dearest grandfather, he welcomed us with tears in his eyes. In a voice choked with tears, he informed us that war had broken out in the world. And he told us other bad news, news more bitter than death, that our father had been drafted into the army as soon as he arrived in Bilgoraj. The Polish government sent its best battalions, and as quickly as possible, to the front. I didn't get to see my father until a year later after he was captured and moved to Lviv.

The town was in turmoil. Chaos and confusion everywhere. The grocers immediately closed their stores and refused to sell food items. Cooking salt disappeared from the market. The residents began to hide everything that was valuable, some in the cellars and some in holes in the ground. The alarms became an everyday thing, airplanes appeared in the sky, and “experts” debated their identity for many days. Rumors spread about spies who had been parachuted

[Hebrew page 98]

in. The flour mill was closed to minimize noise, and telephone centers and vital points were guarded. The Polish army began to pass through town as they were retreating. We had never seen people and vehicles in such large numbers. The retreat was followed by acts of robbery, because the retreating soldiers were hungry and tired. As soon as the Polish army stopped coming through the town, rumors came of an approaching German army. And indeed, on Rosh Hashanah Eve, the first German tanks appeared from the direction of the Tomaszow road.

After several days, the Germans disappeared and the Polish army returned and was seen in town. The knowledgeable people began to tell of a decisive battle that was about to take place between the armies. There was also someone who said that the Poles were going to blow up the safety bridge on the road leading to Zamosc. The neighbors who lived close to the bridge began to move to their relatives' houses, which were as far away from the bridge as possible. Since we were also among those who lived close to the bridge, we moved to Hashil Morer's house, where we found most of the people from our community, except for grandfather who was already ill, and preferred to move to Rabbi Shmuel Gortler's house where he had prayed for years.

A short time later the battle began. Shelling, bursts from machine guns, noise, commotion, really like the upheaval of Sodom and Gomorrah. Several bullets hit the roof tiles and shattered them. The fragments fell in with a great noise to the dismay of the people who were prostrated on the floor, and who wept, wailed in fear, prayed or whispered a chapter of Psalms by heart.

Suddenly the shooting stopped, and after a while there was a huge explosion followed by an oppressive silence. Someone peeked out and said that a thick cloud of smoke was rising from the houses around. Soon we heard a shout: Verfluchte Juden, Raus! (Damned Jews, get out!) The door opened forcefully. Only then did we realize that the whole street, and also the house we were in, were on fire. There was an indescribable commotion, everyone began to run away. A stream of people pulled me out. My mother was lost and so was my 6-year-old brother. I ran through burning streets shrouded in thick smoke near houses that were burned to the ground. In the streets where the houses still stood, Germans passed with flamethrowers and set them on fire. Others accompanied the fleeing crowd with gunfire and bursts from machine guns. I was swept away with the stream of people heading towards the stream - to Mount Grabnik. We crossed the shallow stream and jumped into

[Hebrew page 98]

trenches that had been dug at the time by the army and were abandoned. In the evening, we came out of the trenches. I found myself alone among strangers. Only later someone recognized me, and joined me to his family. He also told me that he had seen my mother coming out of the burning house with the new 8-month-old twins in her arms. My brother was also seen, but he probably went with a different group of people, while grandfather fled to another place.

Days passed until we found each other. My grandfather moved to Zamosc, to his daughter Raizel Drong, may God avenge her. My mother, who was left without a house, with her four children, found refuge for a while in the house of Hadassah Blichman, the mother-in-law of the late Israel Babad (my uncle). Her house was near the school, an environment that was almost undamaged. After that it was decided that I would move to my uncle, Hashil Babad's, house, in a village near Jacnia. On my way there, I passed again through the ruined town. The streets were full of the stink of the corpses of horses and soldiers. Here and there, there was a charred or smoking wall that was like a tombstone to the great destruction. Even though I was a native of this city and knew it well, it was difficult for me to find my way in this ruin as there was no sign of a street or a neighborhood left. The hand of the destroyer, and the fire were in everything.

In the village I was a shepherd with other boys from the village until I was taken to Zamosc. There they informed me that my father, who had been captured by the Russians, had been released and was in Lviv.

And one day my aunt Pesia, my father's sister (now Pesia Roche, lives in Tira, near Haifa) came and took us to Lviv to my father. We had to leave grandfather in Zamosc. We could not take him with us because of his illness. He urged us to leave and go to my father. As for him, he believed that God would not leave him in times of trouble.

We never saw him again.

After 7 years we returned to the place where Krasnobrod once was. We could not find a trace of the town and its Jewish community. We found only hatred and sarcastic amazement that “there are still so many Jews left, despite everything that had happened.”

Let this memorial book for the people of Krasnobrod serve as a monument to their lives and their holy deaths. Let the things written in it be a sign for future generations, and will instill in them courage and bravery to fight for the freedom of the people of Israel in the State of Israel.


[Page 327]

The First Memorial Assembly
of Krasnobroders in Israel

Translated by Moses Milstein

The first memorial gathering of Krasnobroders in Israel took place on November 6, 1949 at the Netzach Israel synagogue in Haifa.

Ephraim Lochfeld, who opened the assembly, asked everyone to stand to honor the memory of the Krasnobrod martyrs. For two minutes the assembled stood in holy stillness communing with the near and dear ones who were so tragically cut away before their time. In those two minutes their hearts were gripped by deep sorrow for the orphaned family that had come together to say Kaddish for the holy Krasnobrod community, near Zamosc, that was destroyed.

E. Lochfeld was elected as chairman, and Mordechai Rapaport as secretary.

Moishe Fishl, one of the few survivors, recounted the terrible story of pain and torments during the annihilation of Krasnobrod.

With simple words, he described the terrible tragedy. In chapter after chapter he recounted the bestiality of the German murderers and their accomplices–the Poles.

After this, Aharon Untzig read a passage of mishnayes for the elevation of the holy souls of the martyrs, and ended with Kaddish.

R' Itzchak Mayer Gurtler delivered a eulogy for the martyrs calling on the assembled not to forget what the German Amalek had done to us, and the consolation of the building of Eretz Israel.

Yoel Handelsman read his writings dedicated to Krasnobrod.

[Page 328]

Ephraim Lochfeld related various facts about Krasnobrod life. His proposal that the day, tet'vav[1] Cheshvan, the day of the last aktion, become the memorial day for the Krasnobrod martyrs, was accepted.

After Eliezer Lerner recited El Maaleh Rachamim, the official part of the memorial assembly came to an end.

At the second session, a committee of the Krasnobrod she'erit hapletah was elected with the following composition:

1. Epharim Lochfeld, Haifa; 2. Sholom Zeltser, Haifa; 3. Eliyahu Rind, Haifa; 4. Pinchas Kupiec, Haifa; 5. Shmulke Gurtler, Haifa; 6. Shloime Babad, Haifa; 7. Moishe Fishl, Haifa; 8. Abraham Giter, Haifa; 9.Abraham Borg, Tel Aviv; 10. Yehoshua Shlegl, Tel Aviv; 11. Abraham Glikman, Tel Aviv; 12. Shmuel Untzig, Tel Aviv; 13. Abraham Elboim, Jerusalem; 14. Mordechai Rapaport, Ramle; 15. Moishe Fuchs, Hadera.

Lochfeld proposed founding a gemilut chasidim–a continuation of the gemilut chasidim in Krasnobrod–that would provide loans to help out the landsleit in need. The proposal was accepted, and those attending immediately donated their dues.

Lochfeld closed the session with moving words, calling for unity and strengthening among the she'erit hapletah[2] in Israel.


Translator's notes

  1. 15th of Cheshvan return
  2. The ‘remnant of survivors’ (post WWII) return

 

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